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Media & Speaking Requests:

To request an interview with Jenni, contact Amber McGinty at media@jennischaefer.com. (Please only use this email if you are a member of media.)

For speaking inquiries, please visit the Speaking page to complete the inquiry form.

Jenni's Mailing Address:

PO Box 40806
Austin, TX 78704
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I met McCall Dempsey over the summer at our Almost Anorexic signing at Harvard Book Store. My coauthor, clinical psychologist Jennifer J. Thomas, and I had invited McCall to share her recovery story as a part of our special event. When McCall spoke, I was amazed at her ability to share with both eloquence and ease—all the while inspiring everyone in the room. But, according to McCall, sharing her story publicly wasn’t always so easy. Read about her her powerful transformation and recovery below. To share your dream big story, click here.

This post is one in a Life Without Ed Birthday Blog Series celebrating both recovery and the Tenth Anniversary Edition of the book, which was just released.
In March, stay tuned for the audio book.

Message from McCall

Dream big?  How about dream HUGE? How about dream a dream so massive you can’t even imagine it?

When I was in the grips of my eating disorder, dreams did not exist. I lived inside a silent nightmare, surviving day to day. I was a seemingly ‘normal’ girl on the outside with a deadly secret: I was killing myself to find perfection.  Perfection was my dream. My nightmare.

After fifteen years, my body and mind could not take it anymore. On December 14, 2010, I admitted myself to the Carolina House, a residential treatment center in North Carolina. I placed my faith, trust and life into the caring hands of the treatment team. Upon discharge three months later, I made a silent promise to one day pay it forward. I had no idea how I would fulfill such a vow, but I knew that I would. That silent promise became my dream and eventually my life’s work and mission. 

Living with Ed is like walking around with duct tape over your mouth. Even though I am wildly extraverted, Ed muted me and controlled my every thought and decision. My time in treatment helped me remove the duct tape (ouch!) and find MY voice. As I continued down the beautifully imperfect path of recovery, I began to discover who I was. I learned I had a favorite color and even rediscovered my passion for music. But most of all, a writer was unearthed from inside of me. I never considered myself to be a writer. Ed always told me I was not smart enough, so I only wrote in my journals, never sharing them with a soul.

Click here to watch a video about how Southern Smash came to be.
Click here to watch a video about how McCall’s organization, Southern Smash, came to be.

Six months after leaving treatment, something propelled my fingers to click away and start my blog, Loving Imperfection. Despite being on the road to recovery, I kept my blog a secret in fear of judgment. A year later, my best friend posted my blog to Facebook. I almost died thinking about my thousand Facebook friends knowing I had an eating disorder and even worse that I wrote about it!  But I was quickly proven wrong. The response was extraordinary. Long lost friends and even strangers messaged me thanking me for sharing my story because it was nice to know they weren’t alone in their struggles.

I continued to write and put myself out there. Each time I hit submit on a blog post was like running naked down the street. The vulnerability was unbearable, yet so liberating. Recovery led me to discover MY voice and my talent and passion for writing. I quickly became addicted to the freedom of vulnerability and authenticity through writing.

As the blog took off, a group from LSU, the SoleSisters, asked me to share my story. I was not a speaker and had never shared my story publicly. Despite some hesitation, deep down I knew it was my calling. However, I didn’t just want to share my story. I wanted to host a scale-smash, but not just any scale-smash. I wanted this to be a party and celebration of life and true beauty.

Southern Smash was born on November 16, 2012, and it has been a whirlwind ever since. What began as a wild idea of mine, turned into my pay it forward mission.

We are now a non-profit aimed at raising eating disorder awareness through our signature scale smashing events and panel discussions. I also travel and share my story and of course, I still write—constantly.

If I were to travel back in time and tell my 20-year old self that one day I would be writing and speaking publicly about my eating disorder, that girl would have keeled over just from the thought of saying the words “eating disorder” out loud. Ed silenced that girl in shame and I will spend the rest of my life making up for all those years she did not have a voice. 

McCall Dempsey Smashing!
McCall Dempsey Smashing!

I no longer live with duct tape over my mouth. I live free and in the light of recovery. Recovery gave me dreams I never knew were possible and then helped me to make those dreams my reality. I am proof that recovery is possible and that dreams (big ones) really do come true.

With love and gratitude,

McCall

WRITER·SPEAKER·SMASHER

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  • Great story and even better that you’ve found yourself through recovery! I’ve “come out” on Facebook about my ED but I have recently started my own blog which I find hard to share with close ones and friends because that contains real concrete details about what it’s like (I try not to be triggering by refusing to metnion numbers, certain details, etc.) I’ve been slowly revealing it on ED-Recovery places, like here, but it’s a weird process. I’ve been a writer since high school and a lot of my ED is documented through poetry, which is hard to look at sometimes to realize how bad I was suffering. Writing is natural for me, is what my B.A. is in and something I enjoy. Using it to help adn guide others as well as heal is a process I am discovering myself.

    FWIW: anedfortherestofus.blogspot.com
    P.S. The smashing scale thing is the best idea in the world. No lie!

    • Thanks for sharing here Jill and for sharing your voice in your blog too! Writing is such a great tool in the recovery process and sharing has to come in your own time. Do what feels natural. It took over a year before I shared my blog with my best friend!!! Keep writing 😉 And we will have to bring Southern Smash to your community! Because you are right – there’s nothing better than SMASHing a scale!!!! <3

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Hi Jill – I always love hearing from you. Thanks again for sharing. Your blog looks great! Keep writing. I am sure that your story has inspired many along recovery road.

  • Lisa

    As I watch my 13 year old daughter ride the roller coaster of her eating disorder the last 2 years, I just want to thank you both for being willing to sharing your stories because they give ME hope. I obviously see my daughter through very different eyes than she sees herself, and I can only dream that someday she will see herself as everyone else sees her…the beautiful, charming, lovely, amazing person she is, and when I read your stories of recovery I see that it is possible. So from a mom, thank you. May you continue to share your story and touch all of the lives you are meant to touch.

    • Wow, thank YOU, Lisa. Your daughter is lucky to have a mom like you. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to watch your child suffer with an ED, especially now that I am a mom myself – I can hardly stand to watch my baby boy get a shot. BUT…there is hope and she can recover especially with an amazing supportive mom like you. The road to recovery is long and bumpy, but looking back at my path I see how amazingly beautiful it was and continues to be. I am grateful for my ED! It has made me the person I am today. I consider it an honor to share my story and connect with extraordinary people like you. My thoughts are with you as you stand by and support your daughter (and yourself) on this journey. <3 xoxo

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Yes, thank YOU, Lisa. McCall is right: your daughter is lucky to have you. I couldn’t have recovered without my amazing mom!

  • Briana

    First off I love the idea Scale smash! I never thought about doing something like that on such a public scale! That is wicked boss!

    Now, on the idea of writing in recovery I find it could be a double edge sword. I am a survivor of verbal and emotional abuse. my perpetrator used to make fun of me for how much I wrote and what I wrote. If she did not make fun of me out right verbally her eyes and body language certainly said it all. So I stopped writing! Recently, after almost a year and a half of recovery, and in the midst of the slip I started to write again. I have found it awkward, uncomfortable and painful, but also strengthening, because I’m beating my abuser! My therapist is happy that I’m writing because she says I write more positively than I talk! 🙂 I have also found that performance is a new element of my life helpful to my recovery. this is interesting because I am physically disabled and in a wheelchair however, whether it be a flash mob, or a performance for class I feel as though I am in complete control of my body, even if it is just for a moment, it is a great feeling the abuse makes me feel dirty, filthy and out-of-control, and unsafe.

    In terms of speaking about my recovery journey-I do it often & in many different ways! Most of the time I tell my story in front of a few friends, and recovery groups, or groups promoting positive body image. At my university I work with a lot of groups and events promoting positive body image and eating disorder awareness. And my mind if I continue to tell my story and works to promote a positive body image and eating disorder awareness, how can I continue to use behaviors? For me, that would be the hypocritical. So, telling my story makes me not want to engage in behaviors!

    To Jenni: Thank you! Your books and music have impacted my recovery greatly! They have given me a voice. “She Blames Herself” was the song that allowed me to give voice to my abuse for the first time. The song spoke for me when I didn’t know how. Thank you for being there when my therapist cannot! Thank you for teaching me you can live a “normal” life and recover!

    <3 Briana

    • Jenni Schaefer

      Briana – Thanks so much for sharing here. I am thrilled to hear that you are finding your voice. And it means A LOT to me that “She Blames Herself” helped you. Music certainly is powerful. Isn’t it? It sounds like you are working very hard in recovery. Keep it up!

  • Alissa Gamberg

    I can definitely relate to feeling voiceless, both during my illness and in recovery. I still have trouble with telling people I have had an eating disorder. In fact, most of my Facebook friends and close friends have no clue about it! It’s a tough balance, because early on in recovery I made the mistake of casually telling the wrong people about Ed (which as we all know is a very personal and serious matter), who clearly did not understand or even try to be compassionate about it. This makes me realize how important eating disorder education is! The most recent people I told about it initially had a similar reaction when I stated, “I’m in recovery from an eating disorder.” One of them said, “That’s kind of common, isn’t it?” His statement was true, of course, as the statistics are high for people with EDs in this country, but I immediately felt like he didn’t understand WHAT it really meant, and I wanted him to know. I wanted him to understand just how powerful an eating disorder is and that I easily could not have lived to tell him about it. When I shared the details of my story to my two friends, they were blown away because they had no idea just by looking at me that I had once been seriously ill with Ed.

    Living with Ed made me feel voiceless because I struggled with wanting to be invisible yet also wanting to be seen and noticed for all hard work I did to become thin. Even when I was no longer thin, I still wanted to be recognized. But I still didn’t want people to know I had an eating disorder, because for some reason that felt like a weakness to me. It also felt like another opportunity for a world of ignorant people to make all the wrong assumptions and underestimations of me. In essence, I was (and still am) afraid to be vulnerable. I still feel like I can’t reach enough people at once to clearly explain the concept of “the body heals faster than the mind,” and that eating disorders are PSYCHIATRIC illnesses (i.e. involve so much more than just food and body image).

    But recovery has been a true gift; it has actually given me the chance to grow into who I am meant to be – something I never expected to be the result of an eating disorder! I am so much more confident, assertive, enthusiastic, ambitious, comfortable with myself, and adventurous. I am an entirely different person than who I was before my eating disorder behaviors started. My life isn’t perfect, but I am constantly trying to take steps toward being the best version of myself possible.
    But just when I think Ed can’t touch me anymore, or that I am far from that world, reality strikes. Last week I lost a friend I made in treatment to Ed. I am devastated by this tragedy, but have been inspired to write more. I will be attending my first NEDA walk in her honor next month. Here’s a link to the blog entry I wrote about Elizabeth, the beautiful young woman whose 13-year battle with Ed ended before she knew the joys of a recovered life. I went to her funeral and it made me realize, once again, how REAL and lethal Ed is.
    http://thepensivelatina.blogspot.com/2014/03/dear-ellie.html

    • Alissa, your words are beautiful—both on my blog and yours. I am so saddened to hear about Elizabeth. I, too, have lost friends to Ed. I am happy to hear that you are helping to get the word out about both the reality of Ed as well as the possibility of recovery. I really appreciate your sharing here.